Fourth-Quarter Fade Sends the Panthers to Another Defeat

We are part of The Trust Project

A once-promising season for the Pleasantville boys’ basketball team began to unravel with an inexplicable second-half collapse at home against Croton shortly after New Year’s.

Charlie Montgomery of Pleasantville drives to the basketin last Wednesday's game at Putnam Valley.. Photo by Andy Jacobs
Charlie Montgomery of Pleasantville drives to the basket
in last Wednesday’s game at Putnam Valley.. Photo by Andy Jacobs

The Panther fortunes took another step south last Wednesday evening when they traveled to Putnam Valley trying to put the brakes on a four-game losing streak. A nine-point lead heading to the fourth quarter quickly vanished and the host Tigers went on to a 41-38 victory.

“I don’t think the effort’s the issue,” said disappointed Panther coach Chris Welsh afterwards. “We have a couple of bad possessions in the fourth quarter every game it seems and those couple of bad possessions cost you a game.”

The Panthers, trying to even their record at .500, got five points apiece in the first quarter from Charlie Montgomery and James Leyden and built a 14-7 advantage. Putnam Valley scored the first 10 points of the second period, but the half ended with back-to-back baskets by Leyden and Montgomery, enabling Pleasantville to take a 20-19 lead.

Leyden, who led the Panthers with 17 points, scored four buckets in the third quarter and Pleasantville closed the period with eight straight points, opening up a 36-27 cushion before a silent and stunned Tiger home crowd.

Jack Eisenberg began the late spurt by sneaking in for an offensive rebound and put-back basket. Leyden followed with a short jumper near the foul line and then a layup. John Leyden’s put-back ended the quarter, during which the Panthers outscored Putnam Valley 16-8.

“It’s a situation where, for three quarters, there was great execution, great ball movement,” said Welch. “We worked the clock down a little bit. At the start of the fourth quarter, we just had three consecutive possessions where we shot the ball with 27 seconds left on the clock and then they got out in transition. And that’s their game. That’s our scout. We had to stop them from getting out in transition.”

Pleasantville managed a mere two points in the entire fourth quarter, a pair of free throws by Montgomery with 4:22 remaining in the game. By then, the Tigers had already scored four straight buckets, the last three of them coming on fastbreaks, to move within a point.

“We couldn’t turn the ball over because turnovers lead to those fastbreaks,” Welch said. “So do quick shots and that’s the story of the game. Quick shots, turnovers, led to layups for them at the other end.”

After Montgomery’s two foul shots increased the Panthers’ precarious lead to 38-35, Putnam Valley answered with a free throw from Jelanie Bell-Isaac with 3:26 remaining. Ryan Basso added another foul shot with 2:11 to go. The Panthers came out of a timeout with the shot clock dwindling and Eisenberg was forced to fire up a prayer that went unanswered from 30 feet away just before the buzzer.

“The play wasn’t executed as drawn up,” said Welch. “We had some guys come out and just not really know what we had drawn up.”

Putnam  Valley rebounded Eisenberg’s desperation heave and seized the lead for the first time since 30 seconds into the second half when Kevin Fitzsimmons connected on a fallaway jumper left of the foul line with 1:20 left on the clock. Those were his only two points of the evening and the Panthers never recovered.

Pleasantville turned the ball over twice in succession before Montgomery, bidding to tie the game with 18 seconds left, missed on a runner. A free throw by Andre Soto a second later gave the Tigers a three-point lead. Montgomery got one more chance to even the contest, but his 3-pointer from the right wing at the buzzer bounced off the rim.

“We got a good look,” said Welch of the potential game-tying shot by Montgomery. “We got a good look from a good shooter and it didn’t fall.”

So the Panthers once again had to walk off yet another court with their heads down and their postseason playoff path getting increasingly more difficult.

“The last four games we’ve lost by three points to Ossining, three points at Briarcliff, we had Byram down to the wire and we lost at Put Valley by three points,” Welch said. “I don’t think there’s a tougher four-game stretch that a team at our level can have, and we’ve lost every one of those games in tough fashion.”

Despite all the recent hardship, Welch has never lost faith in his players and their commitment to hard work.

“Listen, this is a team I have no question about their effort, ever,” he said. “They play extremely hard. They play tough. They’re not the biggest team, but they’re scrappy, and for three quarters against a bigger team we controlled the boards. We played our tempo, we hit great shots, we moved the ball well. It’s tough, especially when we’re having the season we’re already having to lose another one that we feel we should’ve won.”

We'd love for you to support our work by joining as a free, partial access subscriber, or by registering as a full access member. Members get full access to all of our content, and receive a variety of bonus perks like free show tickets. Learn more here.